Death Benefit Doubled For City Workers

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(Memphis) City Workers got more than just their 4.6 percent pay cut restored in the new budget for the City of Memphis.

Turns out, all current and past city workers got an increase to their death benefit for their burial.

“It upsets me of course,” Memphis resident Alan Carley said.

Alan Carley works for a Memphis cleaning service. He was already upset about his property taxes going up.

Finding out he’s digging deeper into his own pocket to pay for the city's employee death benefit angered him even more.

“My company doesn't do anything like that. The real world isn't like that. To me it ought to be more real world in politics,” he said.

Whether a current worker or retired, buried in the $620 million budget includes money to pay for everyone's funerals.

“Should the city tighten it’s belt with respect to some of these items? It’s a good question, but it’s something that really wasn't debated at length at council,” Councilman Lee Harris said.

Harris said the benefit has actually been there for years. It was originally $10,000, then cut to $5,000 in 2011 when workers took that 4.6 percent pay cut.

This year, the unions got it restored.

“We know the cost of the 4.6 was $16 million. The cost of these ancillary benefits by comparison was very, very small,” Harris said.

We crunched the numbers. Taxpayers spent $316,000 last year to bury 138 retired employees.

That number will now easily double.

“It's a relative drop in the bucket for someone to die in dignity,” Chad Johnson, who represents the AFSCME workers union, said.

He added that the benefit is well deserved.

“Those folks that are frustrated with it, saying that a city employee gets more than I get, well that's not true, because still on average most public sector employees, especially my employees, tend to make 15 percent less than private sector employees,” he said.

Others worry this benefit will continue to eat away at the city budget.

Currently, there are 7,000 employees and 4,500 retired workers.